The Planning Fallacy and ADHD

March 6, 2019 Noelle Matteson

The planning fallacy affects people living with ADHD especially hard. Learn why the planning fallacy is a big deal and what to do about it at HealthyPlace.

Most people fall victim to the time-related “planning fallacy,”1 but those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are especially susceptible. The planning fallacy is the assumption that a task will run smoothly and quickly, in spite of the average length of time and number of obstacles that particular task usually involves. People with ADHD struggle with time-blindness and organization, so the planning fallacy is a particularly challenging one.

Reasons for the Planning Fallacy

ADHD and Time Management

For example, I might need about an hour to get ready in the morning. However, that allotment may not allow time for transitions, hitting the snooze button, or spilling my tea. Another complication is that the amount of time it takes me to do the same thing widely varies. Certain mornings, I can be out the door in thirty minutes, and other days, I will take an hour and a half to get ready.

ADHD Time Blindness Stems from Poor Executive Functions

There are a plethora of reasons ADHDers in particular struggle with the planning fallacy and time management:

  • One of the only certainties about ADHD is its variability. We are so sensitive to our environment that anything from sleep and weather to something seemingly intangible can affect our mood, energy, and focus.
  • People with ADHD grapple with the managerial part of our brain. This controls our executive functions, apparently including the ability to gauge time. Many describe this problem as “time blindness.”
  • We expect to do things as quickly as people who do not have ADHD. Not only that, perfectionism can lead to the desire to perform a task as quickly as the fastest person who has ever performed it.
  • Perhaps most importantly, ADHDers need an extra boost of motivation in order to accomplish a task. (I often take as much time as is allotted to me, if not longer, even if I am technically able to complete a project in a far shorter period of time.) While most can draw incentive from directives or the promise of rewards and consequences,2 people with ADHD respond more to tasks that are interesting, new, challenging, or urgent.3 Because our brains have difficulty processing happy neurotransmitters, we cannot easily maintain enough energy and focus to wade through a dull task.

How ADHDers Can Address the Planning Fallacy and Time Blindness

Many experts recommend using timers. They can measure how long a task takes, force hyperfocusing ADHDers to take breaks, add urgency, and help us develop a sense of time.4 Other strategies involve breaking down a project into smaller steps and taking into account at least one potential obstacle. Also, while good habits are difficult to form, even people with ADHD can develop habits that become embedded in our bodies and minds.

Please let me know what you do to more accurately measure time and actually accomplish things within those time frames.


  1. Scott, S. J., “What is the Planning Fallacy (and How Can It Derail Your Time Management Efforts)?” Develop Good Habits. Accessed Mar. 2019.
  2. Schwartz, Nikki, “Adult ADHD: Am I Just Lazy? Um, no.” Oaktree Counseling. Aug. 2015.
  3. Taylor-Klaus, Elaine, “There are Only 5 Motivators for People with ADHD.” Impact ADHD. Accessed Mar. 2019.
  4. Knobelman, Deb, “This Is What To Do When Everything Takes Longer Than You Think.” Medium. Feb. 2019.

APA Reference
Matteson, N. (2019, March 6). The Planning Fallacy and ADHD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 18 from

Author: Noelle Matteson

Find Noelle on Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

Leave a reply